Whether you're entitled to be paid when the office is closed depends on whether you are "exempt" salaried or not. If you're salaried, it doesn't necessarily mean you're exempt from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Many employers misclassify employees to avoid paying overtime. In the case of weather and emergency closings, it's probably better to be exempt.
Exempt employees: If you're exempt and you worked any portion of the work week, you have to be paid your entire salary, whether or not the office is closed for a natural disaster such as snow, hurricane, or flood. Further, the regulations state, "If the employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available." This would include natural disasters, so if you are able to work after a blizzard then you must be paid even if you didn't work any portion of the week. If you can't get there on time or have to leave early due to the blizzard but the office is open, they can't deduct for any partial days you worked.
Vacation time and PTO: The company can deduct from your vacation time or PTO for the time taken. However, if you have no accrued vacation or PTO time available, they still can't deduct from your pay if you're exempt.
Non-exempt employees: If you are non-exempt, then your employer doesn't have to pay for the time the office is closed. However, if your company takes deductions and you're a non-exempt salaried employee it may affect the way overtime is calculated.
Who Is Exempt?: You're not exempt unless you fall into very specific categories. These include:
- Movie theater employees
- Live-in domestic employees
- Farmworkers on small farms
- Railroad employees (they are covered by the Railway Labor Act)
- Truck drivers, loaders, helpers and mechanics (covered under the Motor Carriers Act)
- Computer professionals making at least $27.63/hour
- Commissioned sales employees who average at least 1.5 times minimum wage/hour
- Auto dealer salespeople
- Mechanics and parts-people
- Seasonal and recreational workers
- Learned professions
- Creative employees
- Administrative employees
Pay For Reporting To Work: If you report to work after a natural disaster, only to find out that the workplace is closed (assuming they didn't notify you), New York law requires the employer to pay you at least four hours of wages, and New Jersey law requires the employer to pay you at least one hour of wages. Other states that have some requirements for pay if workers report for duty as scheduled are California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon and Rhode Island, as well as the District of Columbia.
If you're hit with a snowstorm, get in touch with your supervisor or manager as soon as possible to find out whether or not you're expected to be there. If you can't get in touch with anyone, then only go in if it's safe for you to do so. I hope you and yours stay safe during this winter season.
If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.
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